Brazen attack: Bannu jailbreak reports suggest ‘inside job’

Published: April 17, 2012

A militant commander who helped plan an assault on Bannu jail on Sunday which freed nearly 400 prisoners said his group had inside information. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

LAHORE / PESHAWAR: 

While the authorities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa blamed ‘intelligence failure’ for Sunday’s brazen jailbreak in Bannu city, a confidential intelligence report claimed that the federal interior ministry was tipped about possible militant strikes three months prior.

According to the report, dated January 5, 2012, Commander Askari of the Tariq Geedar militant group was plotting attacks on different targets, including on PAF base in Kohat, Kohat garrison and Lachi police station.

The report also warned that the group could mount an assault on the Bannu prison to free Adnan Rashid, the PAF technician who has been sentenced to death in connection with the Pervez Musharraf assassination plot, and other dangerous militants.

The National Crisis Management Cell – which works under the interior ministry – had sent the report to K-P’s home secretary, police chief and all others concerned officials, recommending necessary measures to foil such attacks.

‘Total failure of intelligence’

Interestingly, the provincial government on Monday blamed “total intelligence failure” for the Bannu jailbreak.

“Challenging the government’s writ so openly is a total failure of intelligence agencies,” Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told a news conference in Peshawar.

“We have removed the deputy superintendent of Bannu jail, the city commissioner and two other senior police officers,” he said, adding that a five-member committee had been set up to investigate the matter.

He also noted that the jailbreak coincided with multiple attacks by the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan. “The committee will try to find out whether the jailbreak, claimed by local Taliban, had any link to the coordinated attacks in Afghanistan,” Hussain said.

He said that the committee, led by Reform Management and Monitoring Unit Director Dr Ehsanul Haq, will complete its probe within 15 days and its findings will be made public.

Home and Tribal Affairs Secretary Azam Khan, meanwhile, blamed the federal government for not heeding requests to mend loopholes in security for the province.

The paramilitary Frontier Corps is supposed to be deployed in the buffer zones between tribal and settled areas of K-P, Khan said.

“However, only 38% of FC troops are where they are actually required. The rest are deployed in Islamabad and elsewhere,” he said, adding that he had communicated his concern to the federal government five months ago.

While investigators are looking for clues, it has been learnt that of the 93 police officials who were supposed to be on guard, a whopping 63 were absent on the fateful day.

Out of the 30 remaining who were actually present, only 10 were armed. Of the 20 FC officials who were supposed to be on duty, 14 were absent. Only six FC personnel were armed and on duty.

To sum up: There were a total of 36 officials on duty, who were monitoring 946 inmates, when there should have been a total of 113 officials on duty. Up to 68 per cent of those who were supposed to be on guard were absent. Of those who were present, only 16 were armed – figures highly contradictory to those provided by the authorities, who claimed that security strength was high on the day of the attack.

Inside job?

A militant commander who helped plan the Bannu jailbreak said that his group had inside information.

“We had maps of the area and we had complete maps and plans of the jail as well,” he told Reuters. “All I have to say is we have people who support us in Bannu. It was with their support that this operation was successful.”

It was not possible to independently verify that account. But the inspector general for prisons in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Arshad Majeed, did not rule out collusion.

“It is possible that the attackers had help from the inside. We cannot confirm that but we are investigating to see what happened,” he said.

Bannu DIG Iftikhar Ahmed told Daily Express confirmed that there had been cell phone contact between the prisoners and the attackers.

Azam Khan conceded that prisoners in different jails of the province had access to cellphones. But he tried to shift the blame.

“We have requested (the federal government) for the installation of mobile jammers in prisons,” he said. “The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has yet to issue a No-Objection Certificate despite the fact that I have been in communication with them for four months.”

(Additional input from AGENCIES and Fida Adeel in Peshawar)

Correction: An earlier version of this article had incorrectly attributed a quote of Secretary Home and Tribal Affairs Azam Khan to Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain. The correction has been made.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Realist's musings
    Apr 17, 2012 - 7:36AM

    ET has conveniently omitted the possibility of increasing supernatural power that the Taliban have. Do we know that they become invisible at night, come, take the prisoners or execute their target and then disappear? If not supernatural power, how about their being well trained and ferocious? Even if a 200 FC personnel were deployed here, they would surrender like their mates who had surrendered a few years ago to the Taliban.

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  • Kapil
    Apr 17, 2012 - 7:49AM

    Just as prison doors are locked from inside, they are unlocked from inside as well.

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  • Ch Allah Daad
    Apr 17, 2012 - 7:52AM

    Not only from inside, perpertrators got help from all sides.

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  • م ع ا
    Apr 17, 2012 - 8:28AM

    Chief Justice of Pakistan must take sou moto action in this case. This is one of greatest negligence of security forces. Army, police and jail administration all are responsible of this.

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  • Gul Bahadur
    Apr 17, 2012 - 9:59AM

    Why high profile prisoners were kept in KP when.they had committed crimes in Punjab:for example the man accused of plotting to kill Musharaf?Why F.C. is deployed in Punjab for the security of Punjabi officers?How the invaders reached Bannu jail when the whole city is surrounded by Pakistan(PUNJABI) army?As reported in the media,they were communicating in punjabi language.Is this a coincidence that after the jail break,Kabul and other places in Afghanistan were attacked?What was our I.S.I. doing if they had not engineered the jail break.How more than TWENTY vehicles managed to cross more than twenty check points maned by Pakistani army? WHO IS FOOLING WHO?

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  • farhan
    Apr 17, 2012 - 10:47AM

    Another feather on the inept Government of KP. Increasing iftikhar of the province by setting such examples. Waoo.

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  • hamid
    Apr 17, 2012 - 1:56PM

    Gen Zaheer ul Islam and Gen Kayani should resign if they have any shame left.

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  • farhan.
    Apr 17, 2012 - 2:02PM

    After releasing my stress on a boxing bag i am sorrowful to write here that some are claiming taliban SUPER POWER, some are talking about sou moto by CJP, and some are criticizing Govt on keeping high profile prisoners in a very sensitive area.
    Why do not our minds agree to accept that these all are pre planned. Why it does not click in our minds that there must be an involvement of BAAPU (U.S) in any of the smallest matter of Pakistan at any level.

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  • syed
    Apr 17, 2012 - 3:00PM

    @farhan…………..Its easy to blame US for all the bad in the country………and for all the good credit goes to PAK-army……what a silly approach!!!!……..be fair, accept flaws in ur systems. THERE ARE black sheeps in your institutions

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  • Saad Shibli Asc
    Apr 17, 2012 - 4:59PM

    This jail broken / attack incident is only result of corruption. all kind of govrnment officials, all parliament members and bussness men are supporting corruption therefore any thing is posible in pakistan. army ignoring this fact . Saad Shibli Asc.Recommend

  • Apr 17, 2012 - 8:19PM

    It is sad to see a brazen attack by terrorists who freed some 400 criminals from a government jail. The mindset of these terrorists is only to create complete anarchy. Is it not irresponsible to accuse the United States with any involvement in this matter? I would like to make it clear to all our readers that the terrorists are as much our enemy as they are yours. They kill our soldiers with the same impunity as they kill yours. We are striving for a peaceful world just like you. There is no time for conspiracy theories anymore. The terrorists are getting desperate and in their desperation more blatant in their attacks. Remember they have no value for human life so they feel they have nothing to lose. We have to regroup and complete our mission of total destruction of all terrorist organizations. Unless that is done, peace will be a rare commodity and people will keep suffering at the hands of these terrorists. The choice is ours, which should be obvious, go after the remaining terrorists with full force for their total elimination so that peace may prevail.

    Maj David Nevers
    DET-United States Central Command
    http://www.centcom.mil/ur

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